Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bradshaw, William (1571-1618)

BRADSHAW, WILLIAM (1571–1618), puritan divine, son of Nicholas Bradshaw, of a Lancashire family, was born at Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, in 1571. His early schooling at Worcester was paid for by an uncle, on whose death his education was gratuitously continued by George Ainsworth, master of the grammar school at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. In 1589 Bradshaw went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. and M.A., but was unsuccessful in competing for a fellowship (1596) with Joseph Hall, afterwards bishop of Norwich. Through the influence of Laurence Chaderton [q. v.], the first master of Emmanuel, he obtained a tutorship in the family of Sir Thomas Leighton, governor of Guernsey. Here he came under the direct influence of the puritan leader, Thomas Cartwright [q. v.], who had framed (1571) the ecclesiastical discipline of the Channel Islands on the continental model, and was now preaching at Castle-cornet. Between Cartwright and Bradshaw a strong and lasting affection was formed. Here also he met James Montague (afterwards Bishop of Winchester). In 1599, when Montague was made first master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Bradshaw was appointed one of the first fellows. He had a near escape from drowning (being no swimmer) at Harston Mills, near Cambridge, while journeying on horseback to the university. He took orders, some things at which he scrupled being dispensed with, and preached occasionally at Abington, Bassingbourne, and Steeple-Morden, villages near Cambridge. He left Cambridge, having got into trouble by distributing the writings of John Darrel [q. v.], tried for practising exorcism. In July 1601, through Chaderton's influence, he was invited to settle as a lecturer at Chatham, in the diocese of Rochester. He was very popular, and the parishionere applied (25 April 1602), through Sir Francis Hastings, for the archbishop's confirmation of his appointment to the living. A report that he held unsound doctrine had, however, reached London; and Bradshaw was cited on 28 May to appear next morning before Archbishop Whitgift, and Bancroft, bishop of London, at Shorne, near Chatham. He was accused of teaching 'that man is not bound to love God, unless he be sure that God loves him.' Bradshaw repudiated this heresy, and offered to produce testimony that he had taught no such thing. However. he was simply called upon to subscribe; he declined, was suspended, and bound to appear again when summoned. The vicar, John Philips, stood his friend, and the parishioners applied to John Young, bishop of Rochester, for his restoration, but without effect. Under this disappointment, Bradshaw found a retreat in the family of Alexander Redich, of Newhall, close to Stapenhill, Derbyshire. Redich procured him a license from William Overton, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, to preach in any part of his diocese. Accordingly he preached at a private chapel in Redich's park, and subsequently (from 1604) in Stapenhill Church. Although he drew no emolument from his public work, the hospitality of his patron was liberally extended to him. Soon after his marriage he settled at Stanton Ward, in Stapenhill parish, and his wife made something by needlework and by teaching a few children. Bradshaw one of a little knot of puritan divines who met periodically at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Repton, Burton-on-Trent, and Stapenhill. Neither in form nor in aim waa this association a presbyterian classis. Whether Bradshaw ever held Cartwright's views of ecclesiastical jurisdiction is not clear; it is plain that he did not adhere to them. Neal places both him and his neighbour Hildersham, of Ashby, among the beneficed clergy who in 1588 declared their approbation of Cartwright's 'Book of Discipline'; but the chronology in both cases is manifestly wrong. Even Cartwright and his immediate coadjutors declared in April 1592 that they never had exercised any ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or so much as proposed to do so, till authorised by law. The exercises of the association with which Bradshaw was connected were limited to a public sermon and a private conference. In these discussions Bradshaw's balanced judgment gave him a superiority over his brethren, who called him 'the weighing divine.' He was strongly averse to ceremonies, both as unlawful in themselves and imposed by the undue authority of prelates. Bradshaw was London, probably on a publishing errand, in 1606; he had been chosen lecturer at Christ Church, Newgate; but the would not authorise him. He had already published against ceremonies, and although his tracts were anonymous, their paternity was well understood. He now put forth his most important piece, 'English Puritanisme,' 1606, 4to, which professed to embody the views of the most rigid section of the party. His views of doctrine would have satisfied Henry Ainsworth [q. v.]; he was at one with Ainsworth as regards the independence of congregations, differing only as to the machinery of their internal government; he was separatist, but he wanted to see the church purified. Moreover, he entertained a much stronger feeling than Ainsworth of the duty of submission to the civil authority. Let the king be a 'very infidel ' and persecutor of the truth, or openly defy every law of God, he held that he still retained, as 'archbishop and general overseer of all the churches within his dominions,' the right to rule all churches within his realm, and must not be resisted in the name of conscience; those who cannot obey must passively take what punishment he allots. The key to Bradshaw's own scheme of church polity is the complete autonomy of individual congregations. He would have them disciplined inwardly on the presbyterian plan, the worshippers delegating their spiritual government to an oligarchy of pastors and elders, power of excommunication being reserved to 'the whole congregation itself.' But he would subject no congregation to any ecclesiastical jurisdiction save 'that which is within itself.' To prevent as far as possible the action of the state from being warped by ecclesiastical control, he would enact that no clergyman should hold any office of civil authority. Liberty of conscience is a principle which his view of the royal supremacy precludes him from directly stating; but he very carefully guards against the possible abuse of church censures, and holds it a sin for any church officers to exercise authority over the body, goods, lives, liberty of any man. In spite of the safeguard provided by the autocratic control which he proposed to vest in the civil power, the system of which Bradshaw was the spokesman was not unnaturally viewed as abandoning every recognised security for maintenance of protestant uniformity. That on his principle congregations might set up the mass was doubtless what was most feared; 'puritan-papist' is the significant title given in 1605 to a writer on Bradshaw's side, who would 'persuade the permission of the promiscuous use and profession of all sorts of heresies.' But before very long the appearance of anabaptist enthusiasts such as Wightman confirmed the impression that the scheme of Bradshaw and his friends would never do. Bradshaw's exposition of puritanism bore no name, but its authorship was never any secret. It was not enough to answer him by the pen of the Bishop of London's Welsh chaplain: his London lodgings were searched by two pursuivants, deputed to seize him and his pamphlets. His wife had sent him out of the way, and, not half an hour before the domiciliary visit, had succeeded in cleverly hiding the books behind the fireplace, They carried this spirited lady before the high commission, but could extract nothing from her under examination, so they bound her to appear again when summoned, and let her go. Ames's Latin version of the 'English Puritanisme' carried Bradshaw's views far and wide (see Ames, William, 1576-1633), and Browne's Hist. of Congregationalism in Norf. and Suff.: 1877, p,66 seq.) His Derbyshire retreat was Bradshaw's safe sanctuary; thither he returned from many a journey in the cause he loved; his friends there were influential; and there was much in his personal address which, when his surface austerity yielded to the natural play of a bright and companionable disposition, attached to him the affectionate regard of men who did not share his views. No encomium from his own party gives so sympathetic a picture of his character as we find in the graphic touches of his compeer, Bishop Hall, who puts the living man before us, 'very strong and eager in argument, hearty in friendship, regardless of the world, a despiser of compliment, a lover of reality.' In the year before his death Bradshaw got back to Derbyshire from one of his journeys, and the chancellor of Overall, the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, 'welcomed him home with a suspension from preaching.' But 'the mediation of a couple of good angels' (not 'two persons of some influence,' as Rose suggests, but coins of the realm) procured the withdrawal of the inhibition, and Bradshaw was left to pursue his work in peace. On a visit to Chelsea he was stricken with malignant fever, which carried him off in 1616. A large company of ministers attended him to his burial in Chelsea Church on 16 May. The funeral sermon was preached by Thomas Gataker [q. v.], who subsequently became his biographer. Bradshaw married a widow at Chatham; but the marriage did not take place till a short time prior to his election by the vestry as afternoon lecturer at Christ Church. He left three sons and a daughter; the eldest son, John, was born in Threadneedle Street, and 'baptised in the church near thereto adjoyning, where the minister of the place, somewhat thick of hearing, by a mistake, instead of Jonathan, nam'd him John.' He became rector of Etchingham, Sussex. Bradshaw published:

  1. 'A Triall of Subscription by way of a Preface unto certaine Subscribers, and reasons for lesse rigour against Nonsubscribers,' 1599, 8vo (anon.)
  2. 'Humble Motives for Association to maintain religion established,' 1601, 8vo (anon.)
  3. 'A consideration of Certaine Positions Archiepiscopall,' 1604, 12mo (anon.; the positions attacked are four, viz. that religion needs ceremonies, that they are lawful when their doctrine is lawful, that the doctrine of the Anglican ceremonies is part of the gospel, that nonconformists are schismatics).
  4. 'A shorte Treatise of the Crosse in Baptisme … the use of the crosse in baptisme is not indifferent, but utterly unlawful,' 1604, 8vo (anon.)
  5. 'A Treatise of Divine Worship, tending to prove that the Ceremonies imposed … are in their use unlawful,' 1604, 8vo (anon.); reprinted 1703, 8vo, with preface and postscript, signed D. M. (Daniel Mayo), 'in defence of a book entitled "Thomas against Bennet"' [see Bennet, Thomas, D.D.]
  6. 'A Proposition concerning kneeling in the very act of receiving, …' 1606, 8vo (anon.)
  7. 'A Treatise of the nature and use of things indifferent, tending to prove that the Ceremonies in present controversie … are neither in nature or use indifferent,' 1606, 8to (anon.; a note prefixed implies that it was circulated anonymously in manuscript and published by an admirer of the unknown author).
  8. 'Twelve generall arguments, proving that the Ceremonies imposed … are unlawfull, and therefore that the Ministers of the Gospel, for the … omission of them in church service are most unjustly charg'd of disloyaltie to his Majestie,' 1605, 12mo (anon.)
  9. 'English Puritanisme: containeing the maine opinions of the rigidest sort of those that are called Puritans …' 1605, 8vo (anon.; reprinted as if by Ames, 1611, 4to; the article Ames, William, speaks of this as the earliest edition of the original; it was translated into Latin for foreign use, with preface by William Ames, D.D., and title 'Puritanismus Anglicanus,' 1610, 8vo. Neal gives an abstract of this work and No. 10, carefully done; but the main fault to be found with Neal is his introduction of the phrase 'liberty of conscience,' which implies rather more than Bradshaw expressly contends for).
  10. 'A Protestation of the King's Supremacie: made in the name of the afflicted Ministers, …' 1606, 8vo (anon.; it was in explanation of the statement of tbe church's attitude towards civil governors, contained in the foregoing, and concludes with an earnest plea for permission openly and peacefully to exercise worship and ecclesiastical discipline, subject only to the laws of the civil authority).
  11. 'A myld and just Defence of certayne Arguments … in behalf of the silenced Ministers, against Mr. G. Powell's Answer to them,' 1606, 4to (anon.); Gabriel Powell was chaplain to Vaughan, bishop of London, and had published against toleration (1606). In reply to 9, Powell wrote 'A Consideration of the deprived and silenced Ministers' Arguments, …' 1606, 4to; and in reply to Bradshaw's defence he wrote 'A Rejoinder to the mild Defence, justifying the Consideration,' &c., 1606, 4to).
  12. 'The Unreasonablenesse of the Separation made apparant, by an Examination of Mr. Johnson's pretended Reasons, published in 1608, whereby hee laboureth to justifie his Schisme from the Church Assemblies of England,' Dort, 1614, 4to. (Francis Johnson's 'Certayne Reastma and Arguments' was written while Johnson was at one with Ainsworth in advocating a separatist congregational polity. John Canne, who subsequently became pastor of Johnson's Amsterdam church, and who lived to distinguish himself as a fifth-monarchy man, published 'A Necessitie of Separation from the Church of England, proved from the Nonconformists' Principle,' 1634, 4to, in reply to Bradshaw and Alexander Leighton, M.D., a non-separatist presbyterian. Gataker then brought out a supplemented edition of Bradshaw's book, 'The Unreasonableness of the Separation made apparent, in Answere to Mr. Francis Johnson; together with a Defence of the said Answere against the Reply of Mr. John Canne,' 1640. 4to.)
  13. 'A Treatise of Justification,' 1615, 8vo; translated into Latin, 'Dissertatio de Justificationis Doctrina,' Leyden, 1618, 12mo; Oxford, 1658, 8to. (Gataker says that John Prideaux, D.D., a strong opponent of Arminianism, afterwards bishop of Worcester, expressed pleasure at meeting Bradshaw's son, 'for the old acquaintance I had, not with your father, but with his book of justification.')
  14. The 2nd edition of Cartwright's 'A Treatise of the Christian Religion, …' 1616, 4to, has an address 'to the Christian reader,' signed W.B. (Bradshaw).

Probably posthumous was

  1. 'A Preparation to the receiving of Christ's Body and Bloud, …' 8th edit., 1627, 12mo.

Certainly posthumous were

  1. 'A Plaine and Pithie Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians,' 1630, 4to (edited by Gataker).
  2. 'A Marriage Feast,' 1620, 4to (edited by Gataker).
  3. 'An Exposition of the XC Psalm, and a Sermon,' 1621, 4to. (The first of these seems to have been separately published as 'A Meditation on Man's Mortality;' the other is the same as 14.) In addition to the above, Brook gives the following, without date;
  4. 'A Treatise of Christian Reproof.'
  5. 'A Treatise of the Sin against the Holy Ghost,'
  6. 'A Twofold Catechism.'
  7. 'An Answer to Mr. G. Powell' (probably the same as 11, but possibly a reply to one of Powell's earlier tracts).
  8. 'A Defence of the Baptism of Infants.'

A collection of Bradshaw's tracts was published with the title, 'Several Treatises of Worship & Ceremonies,' printed for Cambridge and Oxford. 1660, 4to; it contains Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. 8, 9 (which is dated 1604) and 10. From a fly-leaf at the end, it seems to have been printed in Aug. 1660 by J. Rothwell, at the Fountain, in Goldsmith's Row. Cheapside. All the tracts, except 3 and 4, have separate title-pages, though the paging runs on, and are sometimes quoted as distinct issues.

[Life, by Gataker, in Clark's Martyrology, 1677; Neal's Hist. of the Puritans, Dublin, 1759, i. 381, 418; ii. 62 seq., 106; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, ii. 212, 264 seq., 376 seq.; Brook's Memoirs of Cartwright, 1845, pp. 434, 462; Fisher's Companion and Key to the Hist. of England, 1832, pp. 728, 747; Rose, Biog. Dict. 1857, v. 1; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. 1861, ii. 236, 405 seq.; Barclay's Inner Life of the Rel. Societies of the Commonwealth, 1876, pp. 67, 99, 101; Wallace's Antitrin. Biog. 1850, ii. 534 seq., iii. 565 seq.; extracts from Stapenhill Registers, per Rev. E. Warbreck. The list of Bradshaw's tracts has been compiled by help of the libraries of the Brit. Museum and Dr. Williams, the Catalogue of the Advocates' Library, Edin., and a private collection. Further search would probably bring others to light. They are not easy to find, owing to their anonymity.]

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